OR three years, Reputation Measurement Ltd and The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald have been trying to impose their political agendas on Australia's top 100 corporations. They think that Australia's corporations should be good citizens, and that by measuring what they think it means to be a good citizen, they can change corporate behaviour.
Westpac ranked number one on the 2002 Index, and rated well in every category. Flight Centre ranked number one on financial performance, but 47 overall. It was in the doldrums in every other category, including being ranked 99 on environment. On the surface this seems very strange-Flight Centre manages shopfront travel agencies! The reason for this bizarre result was not hard to find.
Reputation Measurement suggested that `companies seeking to demonstrate their worthiness as socially responsible organizations are most successful when they widen their traditional business stakeholder base to include community stakeholders'. Further, 'Ii]nvestors and consumers are increasingly making decisions based on longer-term issues linked to a company's capacity to contribute to a sustainable future'. In other words, the Reputation Index is an instrument for advancing a number of political agendas: corporate social responsibility, stakeholder capitalism, and sustainability.
For example, corporate social responsibility suggests a common agreement about what is good. Whose definition of good is to be believed-the electorate's or the activists'? In a liberal democracy, the rules are set by a consensus that determines not so much what is good corporate behaviour, but what is, and what is not, acceptable behaviour. The Index is an exercise in capturing the reputation agenda and using it to regulate corporate behaviour.
Stakeholder theory suggests that all interests in an enterprise compete to obtain benefits from the enterprise, but that none has priority. It is in effect asking, `in whose interests should the enterprise be run?' It assumes that society grants an enterprise the right to exist. The community, through its lawmakers, may grant licences and certain privileges in return for the enterprise complying with the law. It does not license stakeholders at large to impose their views on the corporation.
Sustainability refers to ecological sustainability, and ecological sustainability is premised on the notion of limits to growth, based on limits to resources. It argues that …